Building Stronger Universities (BSU), Phase I - III 2011-2021

This information present phase 3 of the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) programme, which includes six development engagements in the form of partnerships between African universities in Tanzania (3), Uganda (1) and Ghana (2), respectively, and consortia of Danish universities. BSU Phase 1 started in 2011, BSU Phase 2 started in 2014, and BSU Phase 3 will run from 2017-2021 (four years). The six development engagements (“Partnership proposals”) of the BSU phase 3 are attached as annexes 2-7 to this document.

BSU phase 3 builds on lessons learned from BSU phase 2, consolidates results and focuses on fewer thematic science areas. It also adds emphasis on the capacity of the Southern universities to perform outreach, engage with a variety of stakeholders and encourage uptake of research results relevant to growth and development. The key principle of Southern leader- and ownership of the partnerships has been maintained. Danida’s Fellowship Center (DFC) will play a stronger role in ensuring learning across the partnerships, and dissemination of the many expected specific achievements.

Thematic, Regional and Country Context

Despite progress, research is still lagging behind in Sub Saharan Africa

To thrive in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy, countries need academic institutions conducting research and providing research-based education. Research provides new technology and knowledge, and can contribute with practical solutions to development challenges. Graduates with relevant skills for employment and entrepreneurship boost productivity and growth.

Over the last two decades, education in Africa has seen notable gains in the number of children and young people accessing schooling at all levels, but only 7% reaches the tertiary level, and tertiary enrollment in Africa continues to be dominated by the humanities and social sciences.

Spending on research in Sub-Saharan Africa as percentage of GDP has increased around 14% over the last 20 years, but this is significant less than the world increase of 20% in the same period, and spending remains at a paltry 0.4% of GDP, only trailed by Central Asia and the Arab States. International funding remains essential and is estimated to constitute half of the overall funding for research and development activities. The quality of university education and research remains a challenge, and no Sub-Saharan African universities (excluding South Africa) appear in the higher end of international rankings.

In June 2014, the African Union adopted a Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa. It aims to accelerate Africa’s transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy, and envisages improving science, technology and innovation (STI) readiness in Africa in terms of infrastructure, professional and technical competence, and entrepreneurial capacity; and implementing specific policies and programs in science, technology and innovation that address societal needs in a holistic and sustainable way.

The partner countries for BSU Phase III, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda, have increased their spending on research more than the SSA average. Tanzania and Uganda spends a bit more than the average (0.5% of GDP), while the latest data for Ghana (2010) indicated 0.4% of GDP. All the countries have STI strategies emphasizing the importance of knowledge, innovation, research and research-based education, and they all maintain their commitment in the Lagos Plan of Action from 2007 to increase spending on research to 1.0% of GDP.

Apart from the dearth of funding, the challenges faced by the sector vary from country to country and between individual universities, which are at very different stages of development. Many universities are teaching rather than research universities, where academic staff spend most of their time teaching, often textbook- and root-based, rather than problem-based. The majority of staff in many universities still have only Master-level degrees and little actual research competence. Infrastructure, in particular digital infrastructure, is often in a precarious state, and administrative processes that should underpin teaching and research – financial management, procurement, student management – are often weak; supervision and support to students insufficient; and funding for research is either ad hoc or linked to international cooperation. Despite the broad observance of good governance principles in many universities, effective management is under the prevailing resource conditions extremely challenging.

Basic principles of human rights and good governance are observed in universities in the BSU countries, where universities are generally bastions of academic freedom. While a better gender equality among students and employees is a goal across the board of universities in Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana, there is a long way to go before there will be a reasonable gender balance.

Despite the gains over the last decades in the three countries, research and research-trained graduates are not satisfying the demands from society and economy, and accelerating the progress has potentially strong spill-over effects on development. Funds alone will not ensure this acceleration – the universities need partnerships that can help them adopt adequate approaches research, research-based teaching and outreach.

Key lessons from BSU Phase 2 of relevance from BSU Phase 3 include:

  • BSU has from the beginning recognized that capacity development and university partnerships are longer-term It has allowed to “hurry slowly”, and keep ambitions level realistic – without losing sight of the longer-term goals.
  • The Southern leadership has generated considerable ownership and motivation. Alignment with university priorities has eased bringing BSU into the pertinent university structures and adapted the programme to the highly-varied situations in the partner
  • The peer-based partnerships between researchers, based on shared research interests and themes, and between university administrators, have provided incentives for both Danish and Southern partners to stay engaged, despite the fact that all involved have other occupations, and that BSU does not offer merits comparable to e.g. publishing research. The cooperation between peers adds a legitimacy and horizontal nature to the work that could not have been obtained by e.g. using consultants to support capacity development, even if consultants have played a useful role in some specific
  • The thematic focus areas and the options for conducting pilot-research here, involving researchers and g. PhD-students, and building both research-based teaching, research and outreach capacities through learning by doing in integrated processes, have proven essential for keeping teaching, research and outreach together as they are in successful universities all over the world.
  • It has not always been possible to link work on university-wide administrative systems with the thematic The focus on core administrative systems has none the less ensured that BSU has not become a “project island” in the universities, delinked from the institutional structures, and it has ensured that BSU has been helpful solving very concrete and practical problems affecting teaching and research.
  • In some partnerships, the activities have been spread too thinly and involving too many persons to produce a reasonable effect considering the costs Striking the balance between “going deep” in certain specific thematic areas versus “going broad”, and seeking to have impact at faculty and university level is not always easy and demands constant dialogue about and attention to desired outcomes and outputs.
  • Despite some challenges, the present model of funding being administered by the partners seems to be working well with administrative support from Danida Fellowship Centre (DFC). Learning between the BSU Phase 2 participants has taken place, not least through a mid-term seminar held early More could have been done to broadcast the many exciting concrete stories generated by the programme.

Main Objectives of BSU-2 were:

To ensure that KCMUCo is set to undertake relevant and evidence-based research with a strong emphasis on high-quality knowledge generation, translation, dissemination, and communication to relevant key stakeholders

Immediate Objectives were:

  • Research policies, strategies, organization, and research processes improved
  • University-wide services and facilities to support research activities strengthened

BSU-2 Outputs were:

  1. Ph.D. candidates equipped with theoretical and practical research skills according to Tanzanian University Qualifications Framework (UQF) guidelines.
  2. Staff and Ph.D. candidate trained on research skills and oriented on new research policies and regulations by 2016.
  3. Research capacity building in reproductive health
  4. Rationale & Research strategy in the selected focus areas malaria, HIV, TB and Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)
  5. Research Capacity building in e. malaria, HIV, TB and Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) –Build research teams
  6. Candidates have started using the Ph.D. resource center and the Center can cater for 8 students
  7. GCLP-compliant research can be conducted by researchers at the Biotech laboratory.
  8. Improved e-library facilities are used by students and staff
  9. The University has acceptable grant and finance Management systems
  10. Consultative developed a plan for a grant management office by 2016

BSU-2 Achievements are:

  • Relevant research policies and tools were developed/reviewed – Ethics Committee SoPs, Research, Consultancy & Innovations policy, IPR policy, GCLP, The D tracer study.
  • D students were trained on research skills, scientific writing, systematic review, meta-analysis & several foundation courses
  • BSU-2 did not provide for Ph.D. D training as per strict Objectives, but we managed to have one Ph.D. student in reproductive health who is set to graduate within the first half of 2019
  • Research strategies were developed in the selected DANIDA BSU-2 focus areas — malaria, HIV, TB and Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)
  • Research Capacity Building in the DANIDA priority themes applied for funding internally and internationally
  • BSU-2 Ph.D. resource center is complete and operational
  • Accredited of Laboratories (quality standard) for students and researchers, capable of performing Registration Standard clinical trials.
  • Strengthening of E-services at KCMUCo – established the e-library and utilized by staff and students. Enhanced ICT-based implementation of various curricula at KCMUCo on various platforms — LCMS+, Moodle, OSIM.
  • Grant and finance Management systems strengthened, PASTEL Evolution package installed, the finance Management software is now used throughout the College.
  • BSU-2 was in close synergy with other programs at the College (MEPI, MCDC, THRiVE)


BSU Phase III 2017-2021

Program Outcomes

  • Strengthening of Research Administrative and Research Infrastructure
  • Strengthening Institutional Research Education and Research Processes
  • Strengthening Individual Research Capacity and Outreach Practices

BSU-3 Progress & Achievements

  • We consolidated BSU-2 performance into BSU-3
  • Activities are in line with and influenced KCMUCo policies and strategies as well as enhanced compliance with the National Regulatory Authority, the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) — University Quality Framework (UQF).

BSU-3 Thematic areas

  1. Reproductive health and women’s health including obstetrics and gynecology and linkage with pathology through telemedicine.

Research capacity building and sustainability in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark and the active collaboration with several Departments at Odense University Hospital.

2. Malaria & febrile illnesses.

Builds on the long, successful collaboration on malaria research between KCMUCo and the University of Copenhagen as well as the collaboration with Danish Technical University (DTU)

3. HIV

Though BSU-2, new collaborative links have been established between early/midterm carrier HIV researchers at KCMUCo and researchers at the University of Copenhagen/ Copenhagen University Hospital.